i've seen some jazz solo transcriptions where a perfect 4th is played over a major 7th or a dominant 7th chord on the downbeat, but to me, it doesn't sound harmoniously and theoretically correct. let's say you have a g major 7 chord and you play a c natural on the downbeat. is this a mistake that is commonly played among jazz pianists or am i missing something that is theoretically out of my knowledge?
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this is known to some as "avoid tones."  when a melodic pitch is diatonically a minor second (or minor ninth) above the root or third of the underlying chord, it creates a dissonance that is usually perceived as harsh in that context.  in the case of the perfect 4th over a major 7th chord, not only does this dissonance exist, but also a tritone that it forms against the major seventh of the chord.

nevertheless, you know the old saying, "there's no such thing a a wrong note..." (you know the rest!)
a p4 on which tone?  on the root/tonic?
a perfect 4th is an interval, not a note.  it's two notes.
i think maybe you're thinking the 4th tone of the major scale.
a perfect 4th up from the g tonic of a g major scale is c natural...

fourth tone of the g major scale is a c natural...

it's the same thing.
no, it's not the same thing at all.
a perfect 4th is the distance between the root and the 4th tone of the scale.  an interval is a distance.
the fourth tone of the scale is a tone.  not the distance between two tones.

cynbad, b.mus., music theory nerd
actually, as a nerd, i should be even more precise than that.
a p4 is an interval of 5 semi-tones.  or two and 1/2 steps.  
it doesn't really matter if it's from the "root" of any scale or not.
using the 4th tone of a major scale is merely an example.
in fact, if you were playing a p4 consisting of  g - c  
over a cmaj7 chord, it would sound just fine.
thing is, it hardly matters what notes you play.  sure, stay somewhere within the harmonic landscape, but what really counts is how rhythmically you play them, where you put them so to speak.

most people have the problem of playing notes that just aren't very accurate rhythmically.  they don't help the feel of the time along, instead they take away from the feel.  

dizzy once said something like, "i might not play all the right notes, but i play them in all the right places."

also, when you are soloing, you don't have to play only the notes that fit in the scale or chord, unless you're a die hard smooth jazzer i guess.  any note will work in any chord as long as you're playing the note instead of the note playing you.  

what i mean by that is be deliberate in your playing. if you find your fingers playing a bunch of bs because "they know how" to do it in that key, try something else.

listen to ahmad jamal if you want to get an idea of someone who's rhythmic, plays any notes they want, and sounds great all at the same time.
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<i> it doesn't really matter if it's from the "root" of any scale or not</i>

actually, the term "root" is applied to chords, not scales. if you are refering to scales, you would use "tonic".

but you are right that if you play a p4 consisting of g - c over a cmaj7 chord, it would sound just fine. however, if you read carefully enough in my original post, i mentioned gmajor7, not cmajor7.
whoops, ha ha ha... can you edit my post scot and turn my <i></i> into quotes?
somewhat related to this topic is the mysterious business of chords and/or scales that 'work' over a bass note that isn't itself in the scale.  here's an example: a nice suspension into a kind of c7 would be to play a c in the bass and over it a bdim7 followed by a bbdim7.  nothing very new about this - bach was doing it centuries ago.  but for improvisation purposes, you could think of using a b whole-half diminished scale to cover both chords - even though the bass note (c) doesn't appear in that scale.

i don't particularly go for this chord-scale approach myself, but you could argue that here it's the bass note that's 'wrong'.

"is this a mistake that is commonly played among jazz pianists or am i missing something that is theoretically out of my knowledge?"

i think this is an example of the limitations of music theory.

theory is only relevant up to a point with jazz. playing 'outside' the changes is what makes a lot of modern jazz piano sound interesting and fresh. you can't really theorise playing 'out'. because it you did, someone would come along and play 'outside' that theory.
music theory on nonchord tones:

a nonchord tone, or nonharmonic tone, is a note in a piece of music which is not a part of the chord that is formed by the other notes sounding at the time.  

chord and nonchord tones are defined by their membership in a chord: "the pitches which make up a chord are called chord-tones: any other pitches are called non-chord-tones." they are also defined by the time at which they sound: "nonharmonic tones are pitches that sound along with a chord but are not chord pitches."

nonchord tones are distinguished through how they are used. the most important distinction is whether they occur on a strong or weak beat and are thus accented or unaccented. they are also distinguished by their direction of approach and departure and the voice or voices in which they occur, and the number of notes they contain.

over time some nonchord tones became chord tones, such as the seventh in a seventh chord. in european classical music "the greater use of dissonance from period to period as a result of the dialectic of linear/vertical forces led to gradual normalization of ninth, eleventh, and thirteenth chords[in analysis and theory]; each additional non-chord tone above the foundational triad became frozen into the chordal mass."
check out the 4th played over the major seventh chords on beat one in bars 9 and 13 of stella by starlight.

if it was your intent to play a note, it can't be wrong.

if you did not intend to play the note it is most likely wrong.
a maj7 over the 4 bass?   i think it's a great chord. made famous from the orchestral section of 'nights in white satin'..where they bang out a cmaj7/f a few times at the end, before finally resolving to a em9 ..( then the big gong )
also used frequently by likes of gino vannelli  ( admittedly my vote for the man who knows harmonic structure the best of all mortals--concurred by the likes of miles davis, stevie wonder and yehudi menuhin of all people )
"when you start thinking about it, you realize that there is validity in whatever you play. there are no mistakes."
mccoy tyner

interview of mccoy tyner by michael gallant
keyboard magazine
march 2009
you know what, i think i've come to realize that everybody hears things differently. some people might accept a c over g maj 7 and others won't. it all comes down to if his/her ears agree with the sound.

when i said a c over a g major 7 chord, i think most of you thought that i was refering to playing a c on the bottom and a g major 7 on top. to my ears, yes, this sounds good. but actually, when i was talking about a c over a g major 7 chord, i meant playing a g major 7 on the bottom and a c on top. when i heard this, it seemed like the c was clashing with the b and d and something didn't sound right.
well, the 4th scale degree is an avoid tone on those types of chords, but you don't mention the harmonic context exactly.

i'm assuming that the transcriptions you are looking at are of master players. if not, it's anybody's game.

often, in a transcription, the true harmony isn't described correctly and such harmonic discrepancies result. i'm assuming that these are either not piano solos, or that you do not have the left hand part, and are "rolling your own" so to speak.

say, on an f blues, the first chord is an f7. keep in mind that for any dominant chord, the corresponding ii chord can be substituted at any time. on an f blues, some players play cm7 f7 for that first bar because of how convincingly it leads to a bb7 in bar 2. in this case a bb is not only acceptable, but preferred because of its guide tone nature! however, because it is a blues, it is very common to lazily just write a chord symbol of whatever would be there normally, which would be f7, and not regard that cm was implied. there are many instances in the omnibook where charlie parker does a tritone sub on the last four bars of a blues, but it's just notated as v7. keep in mind that not everyone who transcribes, especially horn players, are familiar with the nuances harmony. the error was probably in the transcription. if you don't know what the piano player's playing, you can't really say it's wrong. also, the transcriber may be trying to illustrate what's particularly unusual in the solo by just writing the typical chord symbols to illustrate where the soloist is diverging with expectation.

this is why written records of solos or any one player's part is a poor substitute of what actually transpired musically.

let's say it's a 12 bar blues in f, and i'm the horn player, and i play a bb on the downbeat, and you're playing a very specific (and elementary, just for our example) f a c eb. that will sound terrible, yes.

but let's say you're playing a lot like herbie or mccoy, who tend to "sus" out dominant harmonies. you played the tynerish f bb eb g c. now my bb sounds great. a transciber might notate this as f7 in both cases. why the recording is the best reference. perhaps you're not accounting for these types of things when you're playing through the transcriptions.

also, keep in mind for major 7th chords a lot of bebop players, particularly charlie parker, play or imply the v7(b9) here... look at all the cases of charlie parker playing an eb on the last fmaj7 of a blues chorus when he uses his "eb db eb c bb c a" idiom. he's not making a mistake, just implying another harmony entirely. the omnibook doesn't even take account for this.

if you feel that you played a wrong note, just play this note again a half-step below...
it works...!
or just play it again and make something out of it.

i think jazz+'s stella example shows how a fourth against a maj7 chord can be very effective - (a suspension in that case)

i find the concept of avoid notes to be stifling.  avoid notes because you want to avoid them, not because someone else tells you to:)
as a somewhat late arrival to this thread i'll just throw in a few comments:

1. you shouldn't just consider the f over cmaj7 as an isolated note. it largely depends on what you play next. for example if you played fecg as descending 8th notes with the f on the beat it would sound fine because of the c triad you have resolved to. or even just f to e would sound ok, or f to g.

2. casparus: cmaj7 over f bass could be called fmaj9#11  - hardly a terrible discord!

3. hepcatmonk: some great points you use in your solo and comments - thanks!

4. personally i agree that it's easier to make a 4th work over a dominant chord than over a major 7th chord, because of the sus4 possibilities with dominants. but it also depends what you're playing in the left hand at the time you hit the 4th.

5. stella by starlight - great example! but then again i've heard many players harmonize the bars containing the 4th in the melody with a diminished chord on the first beat, to avoid the harmonic clash. so the notes eb to d in bar 9 would be harmonized with  f#dim7 to bbmaj7.
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